David Kapralik, Influential Barbra Streisand, Sly Stone Music Exec, Dies at 91

Courtesy of Stephen Paley
David Kapralik

He was a top A&R man at Columbia and Epic Records in the 1960s.

David Kapralik, a key executive at Columbia and Epic Records in the 1960s who was instrumental in signing Barbra Streisand and Sly and the Family Stone to their first label deals, has died. He was 91.

Kapralik died Wednesday at his home in Maui, Hawaii, his family announced.

After watching Streisand on CBS' The Garry Moore Show, Kapralik helped convince Columbia president Goddard Lieberson to see the singer from Brooklyn perform live at the Blue Angel nightclub in New York City. She was the opening act on a bill headlined by Borscht Belt comic "Fat" Jack Leonard.

Duly impressed, Lieberson signed Streisand to a deal at CBS' Columbia in October 1962, and her first album was recorded three months later.

Recalling the first time he heard Streisand, Kapralik said: "The hairs began to rise on the back of my neck … No one since Edith Piaf affected me so. She had an auteur, a primal force about her."

In 1965, Kapralik left CBS and sold his stock in the company to launch his own management and production firm. Tipped off by a promotions rep in San Francisco about an exciting, racially integrated ensemble headed by Sylvester Stewart, a local DJ, Kapralik got on a plane and caught Sly and the Family Stone at the Winchester Cathedral, a club in Redwood City, California.

"I heard this sound that totally blew me away," Kapralik said in the 2008 book I Want to Take You Higher: The Life and Times of Sly and the Family Stone. "And after the gig, probably about four in the morning, Sly and I went to a nearby International House of Pancakes … we made a connection in the magic mirror."

Kapralik got them a deal at Epic Records, returning to the executive ranks at the label, and became the group's first manager.

Kapralik was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, the youngest of three children of milliners. As a teen, he performed at the Stage Door Canteen in New York and served in the U.S. Navy. He then attended NYU before landing a job with Columbia's sales department.

Kapralik eventually was put in charge of Columbia's A&R division. He went on to head A&R at Epic and at another Columbia sister label, Okeh Records, and managed the CBS publishing firms April and Blackwood.

Kapralik also helped shape the careers of such acts as Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Andy Williams, Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme and Peaches & Herb; produced novelty albums for Bette Davis and Cassius Clay; and gave legendary music exec Tommy Mottola an early career break.

Kapralik retired from management in the mid-1970s and became one-half of a children's song group called HiMe and Ili Ili that toured U.S. public schools. In retirement, he sold flowers and artisanal goods from his Ili Ili Farms on Maui.

He is survived by a nephew, three nieces and six grand-nieces and grand-nephews.